Finding a perfect apartment is difficult, but navigating the market when you have a service dog shouldn’t make it harder. Learn how to handle the common issues that crop up when you’re trying to rent with a service dog.
The Fair Housing Act
Oftentimes, people with disabilities worry that their assistance animals will make it more difficult to get approved for an apartment. Luckily, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) was created specifically to protect people from discrimination in housing. It essentially prevents landlords and property owners from denying people housing because of their minority status; this includes individuals with disabilities who may need special accommodations for their assistance animals.
The FHA states that “the reasonable accommodations […] must be considered in situations where persons with disabilities use (or seek to use) assistance animals in housing where the provider forbids residents from having pets or otherwise imposes restrictions or conditions relating to pets and other animals.”
Basically, landlords can’t deny you housing because of your assistance animal. Landlords also can’t restrict the animal’s size, weight, or breed, and can’t charge pet rent or a deposit. Additionally, assistance animals don’t count toward a household animal limit.
For example, if a landlord prohibits more than two pets in the home and you have two cats and a service dog, the service dog doesn’t count as a pet. However, some rules that apply to pets in housing do still apply to assistance animals. If your assistance animal damages the home, your landlord can still charge you and you may lose your security deposit.
What documentation can landlords request?
Much like any other business owner, a landlord cannot ask about someone’s disability in order to grant their accommodation. In order to let you rent with a service dog, a landlord can request a letter or prescription from a doctor and nothing else. They cannot request an ID, registration, or certification, because the ADA and FHA do not require it.
Many people turn to online registries and certifications in order to rent with a service dog. Some people do this for the purposes of avoiding pet rent, having a pet in no-pets housing, and more. However, a landlord can outright deny your accommodation if you use a fake registry to get a housing accommodation letter. It’s illegal, and in some states it’ll cost you a fine and even eviction.
What to do if you’re having issues with a landlord:
Even with all these legalities laid out, you could still run into an access issue. Reach out to your district Department of Justice if a landlord isn’t abiding by the FHA.
Moving and living with assistance animals can be stressful, but it isn’t impossible. Know your rights, defend yourself, and never be afraid to ask a fellow handler if you’re unsure of where you stand.